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Does my vote count?

By Oscar Castillo | NEWS EDITOR

Following the second presidential debate on Sunday, dozens of Vaqueros have made their way to voter registration sites so they can cast their vote in the Nov. 8 election, but will it matter?

In a random online survey conducted by The Rider, more than half the respondents said they did not think their vote will directly influence the outcome of the presidential election.

This misconception might be tied to the Electoral College.

When citizens cast their vote, they are not voting for the next U.S. president, they are simply telling their state who it should give its electoral votes to.

The Electoral College was formed in 1787, when the executive branch was established.

UTRGV political science Professor Jerry Polinard said the Founding Fathers almost immediately rejected the idea of a popular vote as a form to elect a U.S. president.

“At one point they seemed to be deciding that Congress would choose the next president, and then they decided to back away from that because that would violate separation of powers too much,” Polinard said. “And then, they came up with this very weird concept called the Electoral College. The Electoral College, from a constitutional standpoint, this is how the president is chosen.”

Fellow political science Professor Mark Kaswan said although the system is confusing, every vote counts.

“Ultimately, the voters do determine the outcome of the presidential election because the point of who wins which state depends on the voters in that state, so every vote counts,” Kaswan said.

When the U.S. elects a president, it is done on a state-by-state basis, Kaswan said. Candidates either win or lose each individual state based on the plurality of the votes, not the majority.

A majority happens when more than half of the votes are for one candidate. Since most elections have more than two candidates, it would be difficult for a sole candidate to receive a majority.

“The number of electoral votes that any one state has is determined by the number of seats they have in Congress, which is the number of members they have in the House of Representatives, plus two for the number of members they have in the Senate,” Kaswan said.

The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors; the next U.S. president must obtain 270. The electors, who are party loyalists, vote in their respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, according to the National Archives and Records Administration site. Vice President Joe Biden will preside over the count and announce the winner.

Kaswan said the Electoral College is an imperfect system because the larger the population of the state, the larger the penalty; the smaller the state, the larger the bonus.

Maximiliano Aguilar, an engineering sophomore who participated in the Vaqueros Vote voter registration drive last Tuesday, said this system is not ideal.

“My main conflict with the Electoral College is that, depending on the state, sometimes you have more voting power or you have less voting power,” Aguilar said. “Some people say it’s a good thing because it gives smaller states more power, but it’s not really fair for us.”

As of July 2015, Texas had the second most electoral votes, 38, with a population of more than 27 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. California came in first with 55 electoral votes and a population of more than 39 million.

Of the 27 million residents in Texas, 14,238,436 are registered to vote, according to the Secretary of State website. Whoever wins the plurality in Texas, whether it be Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, will receive the 38 votes.

“If Donald Trump gets 52 percent of the popular vote in Texas, and Hillary Clinton gets 48 percent, she does not get 48 percent of the 38 electoral votes,” Polinard said. “What that means is that a candidate can win the popular vote nationwide, but lose in the college.”

This occurred in the 2004 election with Democratic nominee Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush.

Each state must award all of its electoral votes to the winner of the plurality with the exception of two states, Maine and Nebraska.

“What Maine and Nebraska do is the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district gets that electoral vote,” Polinard said.

If the Maine model were to be applied in Texas, District 15 in Hidalgo County which has never elected a Republican official, would most certainly give its vote to Clinton, he said.

The last time Texas awarded its electoral votes to a Democratic presidential nominee was in 1976. Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter won that election and served one term.

Asked why the Maine model was implemented in some states, Polinard replied: “If you’re a Democratic state, a blue state, and your state government is controlled by Democrats, you’re not going to change that ’cause right now, you get all the electoral votes. You’re not going to make it easier for Republicans to get votes.”

Aguilar said he believes the Electoral College makes the Democratic vote weak in Texas.

“If you’re a Democrat in Texas, you probably shouldn’t even bother going to the polls because your vote won’t count in the end, because Texas is a very strong red state,” he said.

In the 2012 election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney received 1 million more votes than Democrat Barack Obama in Texas.

Vaqueros Vote will conduct a voter registration drive from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday on the Student Union lawn in Brownsville and Chapel Lawn in Edinburg. This will be the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 8 election.

Early voting will begin Oct. 24 and end Nov. 4.

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